Stress is unavoidable no matter the month, but during the holidays, it’s easy for our levels to hit their all-time highs. Hosting family or traveling, a packed calendar of festivities, the pressure to find the perfect gift for your husband or boss: it all adds up. Counteract it by carving out some me-time on your yoga mat.
“It’s the rhythm of the year—every year at the same time, the same level of intensity shows up with the holidays,” says Devon Sweeney, an instructor and teacher trainer at the Yoga Center of Denver on South Broadway. “Knowing this ahead of time, we can approach the quickening season by slowing our pace down and taking a little extra time for ourselves.”
Studies reaffirming the stress-reducing, blood-pressure-lowering benefits of meditation and yoga practices abound—and recent data shows that all it takes is a 15-minute flow for you to reap those rewards. “Yoga is a tool for self-regulation—recognizing how you feel so you can relate and respond to your stress or any emotion appropriately,” Sweeney says. “You can feel the tension rise in your body, and through yoga, you have the tools to choose how to best take care of yourself.”
Find Your Flow
Sweeny’s weekly Yin Yoga + Meditation classes combine seated meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) with a yoga sequence that involves holding specific asanas (postures) for anywhere from four to six minutes. The class is a passive, breath-oriented meditation on stillness and the natural inner pulse. The practice demands calm, focused breathing, which not only cultivates mindfulness but also floods your bloodstream with oxygen, triggering all sorts of biological responses in the parts of your brain essential for planning, decision-making, multitasking, emotional regulation, memory and, of course, stress reduction.
If you feel your stress levels start to rise this time of year, Sweeney suggests carving out some alone time to help combat the pressures—especially important to do if you’ve got a full house of family or visitors. Along with spending some time on your yoga mat, she recommends making a point to completely unplug. Going for a walk outside without your headphones is a really great way to be present, Sweeny shares, or you can book a session in a sensory-deprivation float tank. After taking the time to check in with yourself, you’ll not only be more present to enjoy all the seasonal festivities, you’ll also be more likely to avoid the post-holiday crash that so often follows.